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Suburban firefighter loses mother in blaze
By Josh Stockinger | Daily Herald Staff

Nancy Schultz


A firefighter's mother died Monday after fire swept through her house on the 800 block of East Side Drive in Geneva.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/1/2009 12:00 AM

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John Schultz has been fighting fires for 19 years, but he said he hadn't fully experienced their true devastation until Monday.

About 5:10 a.m., Schultz, 38, received a page informing him his mother's house in Geneva was on fire and she had been rushed to the hospital, where she later died.

"It definitely was surreal," said Schultz, a firefighter in Geneva and Downers Grove. "You always feel compassion when you're at a fire scene but you never get the full grasp of the true nature of what happened. It's hard."

Firefighters found Nancy Schultz, 69, on the living room floor of her house on the 800 block of East Side Drive after a passer-by saw smoke pouring out of the single-story structure. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday, and the preliminary cause of death is pending toxicology results, according to Kane County Coroner Chuck West.

Deputy Geneva Fire Chief Jerry Koster said the blaze remained under investigation, though authorities do not suspect foul play. Damage was estimated at $150,000.

Koster said firefighters at the scene knew the house belonged to a colleague's mother.

"It made it tougher for all the guys involved," he said. "Our guys will be very supportive of him."

John Schultz said his mother had been ill with diabetes for several years but was determined to continue living on her own after his father died in 2000. He said the house had been the family home since 1968, when his parents relocated from the Southwest Side of Chicago, and he and his sister lived nearby.

"Mom was definitely feisty and she didn't want anybody to have to take care of her," he said. "She was strong-willed but fun. She was still taking care of herself the best she could, but it was getting harder and harder for her."

Schultz said his mother also was fond of animals and, in her healthier years, bowling. He said she was a member of the Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva.

"She still kept in touch with friends she knew since grade school and they would get together as frequently as they could," he said. "She definitely enjoyed life."

A visitation is scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday followed by a memorial service at the church, 227 East Side Drive.